Farm Panaroma, Bilpin review: Aromas fresh from the Pan

Read our writer's views on this property below

When a chef wants exciting produce bursting with flavour, the best place to get it is from his own backyard, writes Daniel Dasey.

What do you do if you run one of Sydney's best restaurants but aren't satisfied with the quality of produce local butchers and grocers can stump up?

If you're Sean Moran and Michael "Manoo" Robertson, you cut out the middleman and start your own farm on the city's outskirts, producing fresh fruit and vegies and organic beef, which can be transported straight from the paddock to plates.

The business and life partners, who run Sean's Panaroma in Bondi, bought an 18-hectare orchard at Bilpin in the Blue Mountains in 2009, transforming it into an enormous living pantry for the restaurant. They planted a huge vegetable patch, brought in chickens, cows, pigs and sheep and painstakingly remodelled the uninspiring 1970s house into an eclectic, comfortable country home.

Then to keep things interesting, they decided to open up the operation to bed-and-breakfast customers, treating visitors to a unique farm-stay experience. Not only could guests see how produce was sourced for a locavore-style restaurant, they could also sample it themselves.

Available spots at Farm Panaroma are scarce.

Even without extensive promotion, available spots for the experience at Farm Panaroma (like the restaurant, it's Pan-aroma rather than Pan-orama) are scarce and so my family and I are delighted when we score a weekend spot in late autumn.

But by the time we spot the pretty fairy lights marking the farm late on a Friday night and drive through the main gate, our spirits are waning. My partner and our six-month-old son both have heavy colds and our toddler daughter has just discovered the joys of high-pitched screaming.

Undaunted by the snotty and noisy intruders into his home, Manoo (the nickname stems from a young relative's mispronunciation of Michael), springs into action. The fire in the combustion stove is stoked and we're led to strong, restorative cups of milky tea. The guest rooms, kitchen and lounge room are all housed under the one roof.

Manoo explains the original home on the property burnt down more than 30 years ago and was replaced by a no-nonsense modern building. The pair gutted this when they moved in, laying down a beautiful and warm, polished-concrete floor, installing modern bathrooms and decking out the home in antique furniture and off-beat works of art.


Manoo says Sean typically spends the weekends in Sydney working at the restaurant before driving up to Bilpin on Sunday nights. (For this reason Manoo will be our only host for our stay). The two then drive into town midweek, taking provisions for the restaurant with them, before Manoo again returns to the farm for the weekend.

While Bilpin is less than two hours' drive from central Sydney, the journey up through peak hour traffic has been tiring and we hit the sack early, sleeping the sleep of the dead in the country quiet.

The next morning everyone is feeling bright and when we emerge from the room we find Manoo has been busy in the kitchen. On offer are delicious, fresh-baked muffins, home-made muesli, sourdough bread, and fig and ginger jam.

After a first course, the toddler and I escort Manoo and his small entourage of farm dogs into a nearby paddock where a cute 1960s caravan is home to a clutch of pampered chooks. Our two-year-old happily harvests a batch of eggs, which Manoo takes back to the kitchen and transforms into a delicious scrambled eggs and bacon breakfast.

After downing another strong cup of tea there are lots of activities to get involved in. Manoo provides us with a packet of pig food and we wander down to feed some baby porkers. A wander around the property reveals a huge dam stocked with fish and a variety of livestock, from enormous cows to docile sheep.

Next door at the local community hall the weekly markets are in full swing and we walk on down. There are delicious looking apple pies for sale, arts and crafts and local produce. My partner puts together a seemingly huge collection of farm fresh vegetables and is stunned when the bill comes to just $7. After lots of relaxing, strolling and exploring we return in the evening anxious to taste a home-cooked meal Manoo has agreed to cook for an additional charge ($80).

He whips up a delicious free-range chicken dinner with fresh garden vegetables, which we wash down with wine and follow up with melt-in-the-mouth mini chocolate puddings. While the others retire early, Manoo stays up and chats and proves a terrific raconteur.

Checkout the next day is at 10am, but we fill up first with a farm breakfast, including more muffins. Manoo bids us farewell, pressing a carton of farm eggs into my hands as we get into the car.

The trip home is busy. We pick apples and figs at a neighbouring orchid, visiting Mount Victoria for lunch and then drive through Mount Wilson, arriving home in Sydney tired and satisfied.

Trip notes

Where Farm Panaroma, 2570 Bells Line of Road, Bilpin.

Getting there From Sydney take the M7 north-west towards Richmond and then join the Bells Line of Road. Drive on through Kurrajong Heights and on to Bilpin. Turn into Bilpin Springs Road and then immediately turn left to access the property.

How much Sunday to Thursday, $350 a night. Friday and Saturday, $700. Seven-night stay, $2450. Prices for two adults.

Style statement Eclectic modern country with masculine overtones.

Don't forget Blundstones or gumboots. This is a real, working farm and there's mud — and worse — in spots.

Perfect for Foodies wanting to know more about sourcing fresh ingredients.

Shame about Rome, the farm's energetic kelpie puppy with access to the house. She means no harm, but all the jumping and running was scary for our toddler.

Kudos Manoo's discretion in not naming the international film and music stars who have visited the farm.

Taking the kids Probably better for kids over four or five who can handle the dog.